Safety-first approach crucial for rural roads

There is likely to be some pain ahead for local motorists but most people would agree anything that can make our roads safer has to be welcome. The pain will come in the form of the inevitable slowing signs and delays but in this case it comes with the payoff of demonstrable safety improvements.

In a flurry of activity, VicRoads has now embarked on its $12 million upgrades of the Midland Highway between Ballarat and Creswick. The safety improvements will include three new roundabouts, to be created at Millers Road, Cummins Road and Kennedys Road.  Whether this means these sections will be slowed to 80km/h is yet to be seen but whatever consternation this causes among the usual speed hounds, it must be pointed out safety – not speed – is the ultimate objective of all these works.

Importantly, flexible safety barriers will be installed for 11 kilometres along both sides of the highway and three kilometres of these will run down the centre of the road. This section near an existing overtaking lane running from Sulky Road through to White Hills Road in Creswick, aims to employ VicRoads new centre-road divider technology, which has already been proven to save lives reducing the likelihood and impact of head-on crashes as well as run offs.

While some might claim there are higher priority projects, this stretch of the Midland is ranked as one of the twenty most dangerous roads in Victoria. The historical crash statistics which create these rankings are also those which create the case for what must be done urgently in the seemingly endless task of road maintenance and upgrades. For anyone who has suffered the tragedy of a lost relative these costly investments could not have come soon enough.

The Midland Highway to Geelong upgrade project is also underway as passing lanes and wire barriers are installed on the troubled Lethbridge section of the busy highway.

The costly business of road upgrades is ironically our own taxpayer-funded investment to protect us from ourselves. We all like to get somewhere quicker and we all make mistakes.  These upgrades in a sense take less of the chance out of those human variables by ameliorating the effects when we do make the inevitable errors.

Driver behaviour is still the critical factor in the trauma that takes place on our roads but until we can take the human error out of this equation, these costly investments are welcome.